From 5-6th April staff, ambassadors, and journalists from around the world gathered in Chamonix to test out products from Patagonia’s forthcoming High Alpine range.
Available to consumers in October, the range is very much pitched towards the elite - so much so that Patagonia don’t think a single other brand would have ever justified the costs in R&D to create the range. But what do we mean when we say elite? Well, think of the usual: super light fabrics, high quality down, 3/4 length zips, high levels of breathability. In short, the elite actually counts for a respectable number of people out there pushing their own personal limits - as such I would argue that several of the key products throughout the range will be of interest to many people back here in the UK.
Over the course of the two days we were ‘blessed’ with distinctly Scottish conditions to test the kit too: wind, snow, and rain (it was pretty grim…); however, this was perfect, as in order to put the product through it’s paces the warm/wet conditions were actually far more trying than the usual cold/dry alpine environment. In fact, it’s worth mentioning that all of the products within the range were in fact tested in Scotland for that very reason - it’s a really difficult environment to contend with.
Whilst we have been informed to keep details about product limited until their release later this year, what I can say is that of all the items we were given there was one in particular that impressed me the most - the Nano Air Light Hoody. This product comes as a development from Patagonia's popular Nano Air (which was reviewed on UKC here), but with a lighter and more breathable face fabric, plus lower level of insualtion; the result is a garment that is designed for very active use. The high levels of breathability mean that, in spite of it's warmth, you don't get overly sweaty, therefore making it an ideal 'all day' piece: from approach, to route, and right the way through to descent. I didn't take it off throughout my two days in Chamonix and am looking forward to using it further here in the UK, as it would make an ideal mid-layer for Scottish Winter climbing or even as a super light outer-layer whilst trad climbing. Watch out for a review later in the year...
Another perk of the trip was being able to discuss the various design features with the staff and ambassadors that were involved within the deisgn process. Ambassadors being actively involved with design is something that is regularly quoted from brands, but infrequently practised; however, in this case athletes such as Colin Haley, Zoe Hart, and Dylan Johnson did appear to have a genuine voice into development and over the course of the event went through their own input in precise detail. Global Alpine Designer Christian Regester was also on hand to discuss the fabrics, the cut, and the trial and error processes that took place in order to get the range to where it is now.
In light of the Worn Wear Tour that is about to begin, it was also interesting to hear Colin Haley talk about the ways in which he has taped and repaired jackets whilst away on expedition and an open acceptance that a reduction in weight essentially leads to a reduction in durability (something we all know, but appears to be swept away within the marketing of most brands). It reflected something positive both in terms of the athlete and brand.
For more information you'll have to wait until October, but in the meanwhile keep an eye out on www.patagonia.com.